Proposals: How Long Should You Wait to Follow-up?

As you know I’m working on a new book: The Follow-up Formula: How to Follow-up with Prospects Without Being Creepy. The book will be launching in July, and over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing snippets from the book. The book will be available first to people on the early notification list…add yourself 😉

This question comes up again and again from our clients, and I’m sure you’ve wondered yourself… “How long should I wait to send a follow-up email?”

It’s a tough problem isn’t it. You sent off your proposal, and everything sounded so positive, as if the client was waiting with credit card in hand on the other end, ready to sign your contract and pay you.

Now, it’s been a day, then two days, and then a week, and not so much as a peep from your client.

What’s going on?

Should I reach out?

I don’t want to be pushy.

I’ll wait another day.

What should I do?

How long should I wait?

A reply is all I want. It’s just professional courtesy, isn’t it?!

I’m going to follow-up…maybe tomorrow.

Ever had that conversation in your head, wondering when you should follow-up?

You’re not alone (by a long-shot). In my research for The Follow-up Formula I’ve found that this question is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for firm owners.

In our usual fashion, let’s solve it in 3-parts:

  1. Why “When should I follow-up?” is the wrong question.
  2. How to control the next follow-up.
  3. What to do when there is no defined next step, plus how to use the Rule of 7.

Let’s get started…

Why asking “When should I follow-up?” is the wrong approach

It’s so natural to believe that once you fire-off that proposal everything’s going to be great. It’s going to get executed, and you’ll embark on a rosy new relationship. Cue the unicorns and rainbows…

But, then reality hits. Your super-eager client suddenly goes dark. He was picked up just minutes after you sent your proposal and whisked into the witness protection program. (Probably mob connections…just sayin’).

Now what?

You were thinking you’d have an immediate response. Days go by, and now you have to choose your next move, and choose it carefully. You only get so many bites at the apple, right?

First, NEVER, EVER, NEVER (really, don’t do it)…SEND a proposal. Present it. You, the client, together, on a call or a video conference, or a meeting where you review it together. Explaining all the reasons why, is beyond the scope here, but please stop sending proposals. You’re asking to be ‘ghosted’ by clients.

How to control the next follow-up step (without being pushy)

Instead of sending and hoping, present your proposal and at the end of the presentation, ask the better question of your prospect:

“Where do you want to go from here?”

They’ll say, “Let’s get started” or “We need to think about it” or “We’re not a fit” or whatever. It doesn’t matter how they respond.

Your one and only job is to nail down when that next step (if there is to be one) will happen, and put it on the calendar (ideally it’s a scheduled appointment with the client).

The better you are at clarifying on the next step and getting agreement on when it will happen, the less you’ll have to stress over follow-up.

If that sounds simple, it is. And it will magically eliminate most of your proposal follow-up issues.

What to do when there is no next step

You likely have proposals out to clients today, as you read this, and you don’t have a next step set and booked.

That’s OK. Nobody’s perfect. And, you’ll have times that you have a next step set, and the client will reschedule or won’t show. Things happen. Instead of fretting about it, let’s be prepared for the worst.

When there’s no next step set and you’re wondering what to do next (and when), just apply the Rule of 7.

The power of The Rule of 7 in your follow-up

The Rule of 7 simply states:

For any outstanding proposal, if you have no other agreed upon follow-up step, never go more than 7 days without a follow-up touch.

Wait…that seems so simple. It is. Simple is good, but more important than simple, is that The Rule of 7 removes the need to ponder the timing of each and every follow-up.

When it comes to following-up on proposals, I’ve found that your biggest enemy is procrastination, and indecision breeds procrastination. Remove the decision making component with a default—The Rule of 7.

The easiest way to follow-up is to resend the same email, just add something new at the top. My first follow-ups often just say:

“Hey Bob, just bringing this back to the top of your inbox. What’s the next step to get things kicked off?”

Then the full body of the original email follows.

One important note about your follow-up

I repeat this throughout The Follow-up Formula book—it’s that important. In all the research I did with firm owners, the one thing I kept finding was a deep sense of frustration with the client.

Don’t get frustrated. Things happen. You never know what’s going on in the other person’s world. A friend and client was diagnosed with a serious illness last year. He didn’t tell any of his business contacts what was going on (which I don’t begrudge him one bit), but his responsiveness really dropped.

It had nothing to do with us or the messages we were sending, he just had much more important things to deal with. And your clients and prospects often do, too. Don’t get frustrated. It doesn’t help the relationship, and it makes you no fun to be around.

Just keep following-up, keep being valuable, and keep yourself in the game.

When should you stop following-up?

Great question. Stay tuned for my next article, where I’ll answer the eternal question of how long is long enough.

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